Last night’s YouGov poll also included questions on Scottish independence, while ICM carried out parallel English and Scottish polls for the Sunday Telegraph. YouGov found strong support for a referendum on Scottish independence, with 61% of people supporting holding a referendum (including 76% of respondents in Scotland), although as we’ve noted before, referendums are intrinsically popular – I’ve yet to see a poll question showing people don’t want a referendum on something!
On timing, the balance of support in Britain as a whole seems to be for a referendum earlier than 2014. In YouGov’s poll 36% support a referendum this year or next year, 23% support a referendum in 2014, 7% later. ICM found a similar balance in England – 52% supporting a referendum as soon as possible compared to 25% who would prefer a referendum in 2014. In Scotland, however, there is more support for a delay to 2014 – ICM’s Scottish poll found 43% support a referendum as soon as possible, 41% support a delay. In YouGov’s Scottish subsample 25% would like a referendum this year or next year, 52% would refer a delay until 2014.
Asked about the referendum, neither poll had a straight “how would you vote” quesion. In YouGov’s poll they asked if people would support or oppose Scotland becoming a country independent from the UK. Overall 37% of people supported Scottish independence, 39% opposed it. Amongst respondents in Scotland the split was 45% support/ 45% oppose, amongst respondents in England the split was 36% support and 39% oppose.
ICM asked if people approved or disapproved of Scottish independence – in Scotland the split was similar to YouGov’s: 40% approved, 43% disapproved. In ICM’s English poll there was higher support, 43% of English respondents approved, 32% disapproved.
ICM also asked what people’s preference would be in a three question referendum – in Scotland 37% said they would prefer the status quo, 26% full tax and spending control, 26% full independence (Of course, if there was a 3 question referendum it looks as though it would be two seperate questions, not one three way question)
ICM found that 51% of English respondents thought that Scotland would be worse off if independent, with only 23% thinking they’d be better off. In Scotland the split was 38% of respondents who thought Scotland would be better off, 41% worse off. YouGov asked similar questions for both Scotland and England – again, a majority of respondents in England thought that Scotland would be worse off outside the union, with Scottish respondents more evenly split. For the English question, 36% of respondents in England thought that England would be better off without Scotland, 17% worse off. Most Scottish respondents thought that England would be worse off without Scotland.
In short, English respondents tend to think that Scotland gains more from the Union than England does, and in ICM’s poll at least this makes them more likely to support Scottish independence. Scottish respondents remain more divided about whether the Union benefits Scotland or not, and hence opinions on Scottish independence are also more evenly divided.
As we head towards a referendum there will no doubt be an awful lot more polling on Scottish independence. The figures on how people would vote in a referendum are probably not very meaningful right now – that’s one thing we should learn from the AV referendum – more important right now is understanding the broader opinions and concerns that lay behind those opinions and I expect we’ll have a lot more to mull over in the weeks and months to come.